28 April 2013

Getting started with natural cleaning supplies

Natural Cleaning Supplies

White Vinegar: Used in many formulations. Great for cleaning and disinfecting.

Baking Soda: So many applications. Get the HUGE box and save some money.

Washing Soda: Can be found in the natural section or near laundry supplies in most groceries.

Borax: Boost the strength of cleaning solutions.

Salt: Great for adding an abrasive quality to your cleaners. Kosher or sea salt is best.

Mild Soap: Comes in both flakes and liquids. Vegetable based soap made from coconut or olive oil is known as castile soap and can be found at most health food stores and some groceries.  Comes in scented and unscented. You will want unscented if you plan to add your own essential oils. This is NOT detergent! Many products today are detergents made from petroleum distillates which are both toxic and non-renewable.

Essential Oils: These are not fragrance or perfume oils but the volatile oils of plants. Note: If you have cats or small dog breeds check with your Veterinarian on safe use. Cats and small dogs are especially sensitive to essential oils. Essential oils may also interfere with homeopathic medicines. When in doubt, don't use them until you have consulted an expert. .

Containers: Spray bottles and storage containers come in a variety of sizes and styles and in both glass and plastic. You can usually find them in supermarkets, discount retailers, health food stores and container stores at very reasonable prices.

01 October 2011

Preparing Your Air-Conditioner for Winter

Winter and preparing for winter -- the two seasons in Minnesota and other northern climes. In fairness, you could also go with winter and road construction, but this is a blog about homes, not roads, so there you go.

An important place to start is understanding that air conditioners are meant to be outside and are designed to do that with very little winterizing needed.

I've noticed that many homeowners feel compelled to wrap their air conditioner for the winter months -- something like a swaddling baby -- and some just don't want to hear about how that could cause some bad things to happen.

What bad things, you ask. Well wrapping your air conditioner cause a pocket of air to be trapped around the unit which causes humidity to stay in the unit and this causes the electrical components to corrode and fail.

If you are still feeling resistance to leaving the air conditioner uncovered, you may be thinking about all the rodents that you wanted to house over the winter. They love the protected space and will make some fantastic rodent housing and as an added bonus, they may even eat through the wiring inside your air conditioner.

Do you have additional tips? Share them in the comments.

30 September 2011

Energy Assistance - Minnesota

We really have two seasons here -- winter and getting ready for winter. Every year it gets harder to love living here: snow, wind, cold, below zero, ice...

Winter can be really daunting, especially if you are struggling to make ends meet and you see winter rapidly approaching over the horizon.

The Energy Assistance Program can help you pay energy costs-- like your heating bill-- between Oct 1 and Sept 30 each year. If you qualify, you could receive a grant to cover some of your energy expenses and the grant is paid directly to your energy provider, to reduce your energy bill.

Additionally, if you receive Energy Assistance, you may qualify for weatherization services. These services can improve your home's energy efficiency and lower your energy bill.

Furnace repair or replacement assistance is also available.

Please share your energy saving tips in the comments. 

Community Action Partnership of Suburban Hennepin - Home Rehab Services 
Community Action Partnership of Suburban Hennepin - Energy Assistance Program 
Minnesota Energy 
Minnesota Energy : Low Income Assistance 
Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties
Minnesota Energy Assistance (EAP) Service Provider List 

Image: Riley

27 September 2011

Polishing the family silver

Winter is approaching and yet I still have no desire to polish silver... weird isn't it? In my quest to always find things that work well and are simple, today I'm sharing a silver polishing recipe from Aggie's kitchen.

  • 1 quart water
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • Small piece of aluminum foil

  1. Place the water in a glass container. 
  2. Mix in the baking soda and salt. 
  3. Add the small piece of aluminum foil.
  4. Soak your silver in the mixture until the silver is clean. Soaking time will depend on how tarnished the silver is. 
  5. After soaking, wash the silver with soap and water and dry well.

Do you have tips for cleaning silver? Share them in the comments.

26 September 2011

How to Clean the Jets in Your Bathtub

I had the opportunity to talk to Scott Bakke, the plumber that installed this Jacuzzi® tub. I asked about jetted tubs in general and about the black flakes and brown scummy bits that sometimes appear when the jets of a tub are turned on.

Those little bit and pieces are actually mold and mildew. Yes, as it turns out, mold and mildew can -- and does -- grow in the pipes inside your jetted bathtub because there is always a little moisture in pipes. This is different than a hot tub/spa which is usually full and holding hot water so not as big of a concern.

Bakke tells me that it's important to clean the jets regularly to keep your tub enjoyable and offered this easy and inexpensive way to do it. 

  1. Check your manufacturer's instructions to be sure nothing you are using is bad for your tub. Once you have confirmed that, fill the tub to about 3-inches higher than the highest jets. 
  2. Turn off the air induction valve. 
  3. Add 1/4 cup of low foaming disinfectant like Cascade dish washing powder. 
  4. Run the jets for 5-15 minutes at the highest pressure. 
  5. Drain the tub and refill with cold water. 
  6. Run the jets again for between 5-15 minutes as a rinse cycle. 
  7. Drain and wipe clean with a soft towel. 
Hope that helps and if you have any tips please share them in the comments.

Photo by Riley

02 July 2011

Most Common FHA Repairs

If you are buying or selling a home and are working with an FHA loan, these are some areas that you'll want to be aware of -- for fixing or as potential roadblocks to a sale. The guidelines are in place because they are related to the health and safety of the occupants -- and also are important for marketing the property.

The most common FHA repairs:

  • If the home was built prior to 1978, chipping, peeling paint must be scraped and painted. This includes interior, exterior, garages, sheds, fences, etc. 
  • Roof should have 2-3 years of useful life remaining and no more than 2 layers of shingles. If the roof is over 10 years old, you must remove snow from a large portion of the roof for inspection by the appraiser. 
  • The cause of wet basements should be cured (e.g., improve drainage away from house, gutters, etc.). 
  • Abandoned inoperable wells must be capped and sealed by a licensed well sealing contractor. 
  • Infestation of any kind should be dealt with or exterminated (e.g., insects, mice, bats, etc.) 
  • Damaged or inoperable plumbing, electric and heating systems should be repaired. The appraiser will check these areas. 
  • Structural or foundation problems must be repaired. 
  • Flammable storage tanks must be removed and filler cap sealed from the inside (e.g., buried oil tank) 
  • If there is a crawl space or attic, it will be the homeowner's responsibility to make this area accessible so that it can be thoroughly inspected.

Keep in mind that these are the most common repairs. Contact your lender with specific questions regarding your property.

Found this list here:  Resources - Most Common FHA Repairs http://bit.ly/jFYUqm

Thanks for visiting and let me know if there is something you would like to learn more about!